What you need to know:
- Chandni Chowk is home to many small markets and shops.
- From clothes, to wholesale borders and lace to silver and to food, it has everything in one place.
- We went on a food trail and listed the places we loved.
Blaring horns, loud street vendors and chaos greets you the moment you step into Chandni Chowk, a market place located in the heart of Old Delhi (Dilli 06), India.
Almost in the centre of the city, Chandni Chowk is a world in itself – one that has stood the test of time, and continues to grow in its commotion, every time I visit.
The shabby market place – with its old buildings, tight corridors, busy streets, rickshaws and small shops– has character, and draws you in, no matter how much you resist. From “designer lehengas” (Indian outfits), silver and stationary, to heritage and food, there is something for everyone.
Teaming with diversity, people of different faiths live in peace and harmony. It is home to the famous Jama Masjid, the Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib and many small temples.
Since I was a child, going to Chandni Chowk was a food pilgrimage my family indulged in during the winters. Years later, it is a tradition I like to keep alive, whenever I visit home. For that one day, cholesterol is just a word and ‘more ghee’ (clarified butter) is what dreams are made of.
While there are hundreds of places in Old Delhi worth trying, I’m going to share with you those dishes and eateries that have my heart:
1. Dahi bhallas and aloo tikki:
Once you exit the Chandni Chowk metro station and cross a temple that locals use as a landmark, you walk through a narrow passageway shoulder to shoulder with people. The ordeal is worth it because the smell of hot aloo tikki (potato cutlet) tickles your senses as you get out, and the famous Natraj Dahi Bhalla Corner is there to welcome you.
Aloo tikki (potato cutlet): If you can’t handle spicy food, this is something you should try with caution. This cutlet is made of a spicy potato mash that is deep fried. It is served with sweet and spicy chutney.
Price: Rs50 (Dh2.5)
Dahi Bhallas: Soft fried flour balls are served with yoghurt. It is garnished with sweet and spicy chutney. Pomegranate seeds are added for extra tang.
Price: Rs 50 (Dh2.5)
2. Nagori puri with halwa
Started in 1958, the Kadar Nath Premchand Sweet shop located in Kinari Bazaar is known for their samosas and gaajar ka halwa (carrot halwa). Another crowd favourite is their Nagori puri with halwa. Typically had for breakfast, the crisp puri (Indian flatbread made from plain flour and semolina) with soft halwa made from sooji (semolina) is a complete meal. This simple dish is a different version of Halwa puri, where the puris are much softer. This combination is every sweet-lover’s favourite and warms the heart on a cold winter afternoon.
Price: Rs 35 (Dh1.75)
3. Daulat Ki Chaat
This melt-in-your-mouth dessert is a winter special. Made from raw milk mixed with cream, the dish is cooled overnight over ice. After it has cooled for a couple of hours, a part of the dish is removed and whisked by hand until it becomes light and frothy. It is then blended with khoya (dried whole milk or milk thickened by heating), which adds texture. It can be topped with almonds or saffron.
In winter, Chandni Chowk sees many Daulat ki Chaat vendors, who ply their trade on movable carts. It is my favourite thing to eat, and I’m seldom satisfied with just one helping.
Price: Rs35 (Dh1.75)
4. Mattar Kulcha
This popular street food is served in a bowl made of paper or beetel leaves. The word mattar means garden peas. In this dish, a thick curry preparation is made with dried white peas and served with kulcha, a kind of flat bread. This seasonal dish is garnished with coriander, chopped onions and drizzled with lemon. It is sweet and spicy.
Price: Rs40 (Dh2)
5. Kesar badam milk (Saffron-almond drink)
Kept in a tub of ice, this drink is refreshing in summer and winter. Served in a bottle, the milk is yellow in colour because it has been mixed with saffron, and has pieces of almonds and cardamom mixed in the drink. Where to have it from? Bikanervala on the Dariba Kalan Street.
Price: Rs30 (Dh1.5)
Your Chandni Chowk trip is incomplete if you don’t have jalebi or fried ringlets of chickpea flour fermented with yoghurt from the Old Famous Jalebi Wala. As the name suggests, the corner shop was established in 1884, and is renowned among people from and outside the market place.
Hot jalebis are made by the minute and only 12 to 15 can be fried at a time since they are larger than the usual size of jalebis.
7. Karachi Halwa
The Chaina Ram sweet shop is located next to the Fatehpuri Masjid and is 117 years old. It is famous for its mithai (sweets), specifically, their Karachi Halwa, saffron barfi (milk fudge) and gulab jamun.
Hari Gidwani, one of the owners of the shop said: “The shop was born in 1901 in Lahore. After the India-Pakistan divide, our family moved to India. The Karachi Halwa is the most famous item one can buy, and sold in Lahore as well.”
The chewy Indian desert is served in small cubes and is full of dried fruits, namely almonds pistachios and more. “It is made out of ingredients like starch, dry fruits and ghee (clarified butter). It has a shelf life of about two months.”
Many celebrities including veteran actor Shatrughan Sinha have come to the sweet shop and are regular customers.
Prices: Karachi Halwa Rs 500-700 per Kg (Dh25-35)
In addition to food, Chandni Chowk has many streets dedicated to selling specific products. The Dariba Kalan Street is for silver, at Kinari Bazar you can get wholesale lace, cloth and items for weddings. The Khari Baoli is a wholesale spice market.
If you’ve never been to Chandni Chowk , it is definitely an adventure to go on. You’ll leave feeling full, happy and wanting more.
*Prices may vary depending on weight and quantity of certain dishes.